Wednesday, May 2, 2018

The day our town almost blew up.

No, really, it almost did. 

It was Thursday, April 26, 2018. We live in Superior, Wisconsin, a little nothing town at the tip of Lake Superior, nothing to write home about. One thing we do have in town is a giant oil refinery. Everyone in town drives by it on occasion (us everyday) and growing up we've all had the, "if that ever went, we'd all be dead" conversation, but for the most part, nobody thinks about it. Nobody wishes it gone because it's probably the biggest employer in town and you know how that is. But on Thursday, pretty much the worst case scenario happened. 

Around 10 in the morning, my mom and I were outside with the little girls. It was a little breezy, pretty chilly, we weren't going to be out there very long. Just long enough for the littles to play on their new climber Matt and I bought in anticipation of having a fence this summer. 

 We were playing without a care in the world, they were having a great time. 
 It was just before we were set to come back into the house where out of nowhere, we heard this LOUD boom. Having no idea what it was, I thought maybe it was a huge crack of thunder or maybe train cars banging together, but it was just once so I didn't think anything about it. Then we started hearing sirens coming from every direction and I think my mom made an off remark about the refinery. 
 Turns out, there was a line explosion at the refinery and it was on fire. This is the view from my back yard at about 1p.m., right after I had gotten a phone call saying we were in the evacuation zone, followed up with a call saying my children were being evacuated from school to a nearby business and you could/should pick them up immediately. 

Matt went to get Olivia at the middle school and my mom went to get Jackson, but his school had already been evacuated since it's so close to the refinery, so she sat in traffic for two hours to get him. By the time they were home, both were shaken up and you can tell Olivia had been crying- they could see the massive amounts of smoke and she didn't know what to think. 
We decided that we'd wait it out instead of evacuating right away so we went to Duluth to kill some time.  
 These are just various pictures of our drive out of town. 
 Matt's work is less than a mile away from the refinery and he said it shook their entire building. 
 We decided we would go to the children's museum until dinner time since our membership is still valid, and that was a really great idea. 
 There was hardly anyone there so we had pretty much the whole place to ourselves. 
I thought for sure people would flock to places like this to kill some time. We went out to eat and saw a lot of friends who were in the same mindset at us, not sure if we should stay or go.  
At dinner there was another explosion and they had pulled back firefighters from the fire so they had started asking for police help from other surrounding communities to knock on doors and get people to leave. It was a city wide evacuation at this point, but our neighborhood and my mom's were the priority.  
 Our drive back was even stranger than the drive out. 
 Almost nobody was driving into Wisconsin (Duluth is in Minnesota) and I heard that they eventually shut off access into Wisconsin, but I don't know that for sure. 
 We decided we would go to Matt's parent's home for the night, as annoyed as Matt was. School was cancelled for the next day, Matt's work was closed the next day, and honestly, I'd rather be safe than sorry. 
 These next two pictures aren't mine but were on Facebook and I thought they were just really interesting in their perspective and scope. In this one you can see how huge the refinery is, it isn't Texas huge but it's pretty large for our little area. 
This is the road going into the refinery, we drive down this every day and it was just obliterated by the smoke. I mean, the road is still there but it looks like the end of days. 

We ended up coming home on Friday because the evacuation was lifted in the early morning, and I was just grateful we had a place to go that didn't cost us money. I wondered what people who didn't have the resources to get out did, and if they got any sleep that night. The aftermath has been actually pretty OK. Our water was safe to drink, they say our air and soil are fine too but I am a little doubtful on that myself. I've had a headache ever since but who knows, my body is not a very reliable barometer of things around me. 

Everyone is giving praise to the rescue and emergency personnel and to me, that's expected. That's your job and I'm grateful they can do it, but you know- it's your job. What I was most impressed with was the school. You hear schools get a lot of flack about not being ready in an emergency but our district was on it and once the evacuation call was made people were out of the buildings and on their way. I was really impressed with how much communication us parents had throughout the day and for not dealing in emergencies like this, they really had a well thought out plan. Parents were going all "mama bear" on Facebook and at the pick up area and it's like, calm down. I get it, we all handle stress in different ways, but I felt like the entire city had a plan and had things under control as much as they could. I wasn't worried and I would have been OK staying, I just worried that if the wind switched we'd be dealing with another crisis. Mother Nature is who I'm afraid of. 

Overall, what could have been a massive crisis turned out to be a memorable moment we'll likely all remember. Only a few were injured, thankfully nobody died. We all know people who work at the refinery so it would have been tragic for us all in a way. 


The Flynnigans said...

God damn, those pictures. Glad you were safe, I was worried when I saw you post on FB.

Shooting Stars Mag said...

Woah, those pictures are crazy. I'm glad you had somewhere to go that didn't cost money too, and a place to kill some time! The school sounds like it did an excellent job. Kudos to them.